In contempt

Pam Frampton
Published on May 31, 2014

“All forms of violence against women are wrong. And all can be equally as damaging.”
— From the provincial government’s website

When Tom Marshall took the reins from Kathy Dunderdale earlier this year, he signalled he would lead a kinder, gentler regime; that he would “listen to the people.”

It turns out he and his government are too busy laughing to hear us.

And what sort of topic is striking their collective funny bone? Why, uproarious issues like family violence.

Yessir, family violence — what a knee-slapper.

When NDP MHA Gerry Rogers stood in the House of Assembly Thursday and literally begged the government to reinstate Family Violence Intervention Court, she was derided and mocked and drowned out by a sea of laughter.

Not tittering. Not giggles. We’re talking loud, rip-roaring laughter to the point that she could no longer be heard.

I guess the government’s “Respect Women” campaign is a bit of a joke, too. Thanks for the purple ribbon car magnet and all, but it doesn’t mean much in the face of this hypocrisy.

Some things just aren’t funny. Family violence would be pretty high on my list of things that are completely non-comical.

“Did you hear the one about the guy who smashed a beer bottle over his girlfriend’s head …?”

See what I mean? No comedic value there.

Unless, of course, you’re misogynous.

Gerry Rogers’ treatment in the House on Thursday was abominable.

But it wasn’t only Rogers the government members were mocking. It was anyone who believes family violence is a serious, endemic issue in this province and who laments the government’s decision to cancel Family Violence Intervention Court.

And that includes me.

Not only does the government not understand the power and success of that court in tackling family violence at its roots and reducing recidivism, it can’t even keep its story straight on why it was cut.

Version 1: the court was ineffective and used by too few people.

Version 2: it was axed purely as a cost-saving measure.

Version 3: (from Tom Marshall on Thursday) it won’t be reinstated because it only served the St. John’s area, and in calling for it to be brought back, Rogers was showing her disdain for the people in the rest of the province.

Our only mental health court is in St. John’s, too. Does that mean the government doesn’t care about other parts of the province?

What a ridiculous argument.

The same day that Rogers was laughed off the floor of the House, Joan Shea — the minister responsible for the Status of Women — was lauding her government’s commitment to a “Cybersafe Girl” initiative, meant to prevent cyberbullying and promote a healthy body image among girls.

“The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is committed to educating and raising awareness to combat cyber-violence against young girls, and to reducing violence against all populations in the province. …”

Really? Did the minister responsible for the Status of Women contribute to Thursday’s laugh-riot when Rogers stood to speak about family violence prevention?

Did the premier?

Anyone who did should come forward and explain to their constituents what they find so funny in the topic. Perhaps they could explain it to their families, as well, and to all of us voters in general.

And it’s not just a women’s issue, even though more victims of family violence are women than men. It’s an issue that affects us all.

“Did you hear the one about the guy who smashed his male partner over the head with a beer bottle …?”

See, no laughs there, either.

Shameful display

A year ago, Gerry Rogers was thrown out of the House of Assembly by the Speaker for having been inadvertently added to a Facebook group which contained a post threatening the premier.

The move was instigated by Darin King — you might remember him as the justice minister who cut Family Violence Intervention Court.

The whole episode was a farce, with Rogers having done nothing wrong.

Thursday’s shameful display went way beyond farce. Any fair-minded and non-partisan Speaker would have been calling on government members to apologize to Rogers and to the people of this province, who, incidentally, are not paying politicians to ridicule serious issues in the legislature.

And anyone who tries to pass this off as the harmless cut-and-thrust of debate is full of it.

It was bullying, insulting and disgusting.

But I’ll give the government credit for one thing — for once it was completely successful in getting its message out: the idea of reinstating Family Violence Intervention Court is one big joke.

This isn’t politics, folks. It’s just plain ignorance.

Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email

Twitter: pam_frampton